For all the love songs that have been sung, most focus solely on romantic love. But indie rockers Pinegrove take a different approach on their breakthrough album, “Cardinal.” The Montclair, New Jersey, band covers not just romantic love, but also the love between friends, family and community.
Their introspective lyrics, set to music that combines Americana with bits of emo and pop-punk, have brought them a steadily growing audience since the album was released in early 2016. amNewYork spoke with lead singer/songwriter Evan Stephens Hall about “Cardinal” ahead of Pinegrove’s upcoming New York gigs.
You’ve said you’re influenced by novelists like Virginia Woolf and David Foster Wallace as much as you are by musicians. What did you get from them?
I love reading. I was an English major at Kenyon College. I was learning how to write songs at the same time I was learning how to read and write prose. It opened up my mind to different ways that we can tell stories and different textures and moods. For an artist like David Foster Wallace especially, he taught me that a casual approach or a casual voice tends to make the reader or listener trust you more. It’s more persuasive in a way, because it may be a little more like the voice in your own head or the voice of someone you know, so that familiarity will help build trust and the listener is more likely to come along with me wherever I want to take them.
You’ve also talked about how your favorite albums create a universe. How would you describe the universe of “Cardinal”?
The first song starts with an inhalation, then all of a sudden the character is walking. I sort of imagine that the speaker is kind of standing up and they just start going, as if this is finally the moment they’ve been able to push themselves out the front door and into embracing both the challenges and beautiful parts of life, too. … It’s sort of like a person on a solitary walk and these thoughts and reflections are bouncing around in their head.
What inspired the album’s bookend songs “Old Friends” and “New Friends”?
Both are very Montclair songs for me. “New Friends” is about when you’ve dedicated all your time to a single relationship and you have neglected other relationships that have withered as a consequence, and when that single relationship ends, you look up stunned like, “Hey, where’d everybody go?” But of course it’s your fault. … In “Old Friends,” there’s an element of staying the same while everything around you changes and wanting to be adaptable but also being a little stubborn about it. With those, and what I consider to be the centerpiece of the album, “Size of the Moon,” these are all songs directly about friendship. As you said, I really like the appeal of a thematic universe for a listener to just live in for a little while. It’s more interesting as a listener to have something to dig your teeth into and to be rewarded [with] upon subsequent listens.